Today, the House passed the 2015 Omnibus Appropriations Bill, funding much of the government through Sept. 30, 2015. National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President and Victoria, Texas cattleman, Bob McCan says this appropriations bill contained many of the priorities for cattlemen and women.
“We were very happy to see a number of issues that have affected our producers addressed in this legislation,” said McCan. “It is clear that Congress recognizes and agrees that the Administration’s regulatory zeal has gone too far and if left unchecked, it will impede the economic growth of rural America.”
Key for cattlemen and women, the report language for the USDA contained a provision instructing the Secretary of Agriculture to submit a report with his recommendations for any changes in the Federal law required to bring the Country of Origin Labeling program into compliance with our international trade obligations. This report would need to be submitted within 15 days of the appeal decision from the WTO or by May 1, 2015, whichever comes first.
“The WTO ruling on the COOL rule was very clear that this provision discriminates against our largest trading partners,” said McCan. “Moreover, this failed legislation has cost U.S. cattle producers in the form of lost revenue and added costs for labeling, all for a program that has not shown benefits to consumers or greater consumption of beef. It is time to fix COOL before our economy is damaged by retaliatory tariffs or our trade relationships are permanently damaged. Failure to abide by our trade obligations sends a signal to our current and future trade partners that they too can pick and choose what provisions to abide by.”
The report also directs the Secretary of Agriculture, not to implement a duplicative beef checkoff.
“The Beef Checkoff Program is the most effective tool for cattle producers to invest in research, education and promotion of our product,” said McCan. “With 78 percent support by cattle producers and an $11.20 return on every dollar invested, the Beef Checkoff has been an immense success. Congress has made it clear that they support cattlemen and women and oppose a government-run, duplicative beef checkoff under the 1996 Generic Commodity Promotion, Research and Information Act.”
Importantly for producers the bill would also direct the Environmental Protection Agency to withdraw the Waters of the United States Interpretative rule.
“The EPA’s Interpretative rule would have had unintended consequences for agricultural producers nationwide, making the Natural Resources Conservation Service a regulatory agency by prescribing limited production practices,” said McCan. “While we, along with all of agriculture, were disappointed Congress did not defund EPA’s larger Waters of the United States efforts, this was a first step demonstrating the concerns of landowners.”
The bill also contained language to continue the defunding of the GIPSA provisions and language on a number of environmental regulations. Specifically, the bill prevents funding for the EPA to require cattle producers to obtain greenhouse gas permits for livestock and to prevent mandatory reporting of greenhouse gas emissions from manure management systems. Finally, the bill prohibited the Department of Interior from listing the sage grouse on the Endangered Species list, threatening the viability of ranching in the West without a corresponding benefit to the sage grouse.
NCBA urges the Senate to pass the Omnibus legislation.